tv Astrobiology and Extraterrestrial Life CSPAN August 19, 2014 2:31pm-3:37pm EDT
study astro biology and perhaps some other sciences as well. we appreciate your attendance. i'll recognize myself for opening statement. then the ranking member as well. as we discover more planets around the stars in our own galaxy it is natural to wonder if we may finally be on the brink of answering the question, are we alone in the universe? finding other life in the universe would be the most significant discovery in human history. scientists estimate that there are 80 quintillion stars in the mill which way galaxy. 70 billion planets have been found by the kepler space telescope. last month astronomers found the first planet where liquid water could be present, a condition
thought essential to life. kepler 186-f only 10% larger than the earth and only 490 light years today. the planet survey satellite which will launch in 2017 and james webb space telescope launching in 2018 will help scientists discover more planets with potential bio signatures. the united states has pioneered the field of astrobiology and continues to lead the world in this type of research. is a example of professional papers published published in se magazine between 1995 and 2013 illustrates the significant growth and growing popularity of the field of astrobiology. between 1995 and 2012, the numbers of papers published on astrobiology increased 10 times and number of scientific reports that cited astrobiology increased 25 times. astrobiology is a serious subject studied by serious
scientists around the world. reflecting this interest next september the library of congress and nasa will hold a two-day astrobiology symposium on what the society al impacts could be of finding microbial, complex or intelligent life in the universe. whether life exists on other planets in the universe continues to be a matter of debate among scientists. around the world a number of astronomers listen to naturally occurring radio frequencies. they try to filter out cosmic noise and interference of human made satellites and spacecraft to find anomalies that could be from civilizations elsewhere in the universe. the allen telescope array financed by microsoft cofounder paul allen and the telescope in puerto rico are two well-known location for conducting radio astronomy searches for life in the universe. earlier audio astronomers detected seconals that lasted only a few milliseconds. these fast radio bursts as
they're called, caused scientists to speculate as to their cause. some scientists thought it they would be from stars colliding or extraterrestrial intelligence source. other astronomers look for radio light pulses instead of radio waves. at optical telescope run by harvard-smithsonian enter of physics and university of california at berkeley among others use optical telescopes to try to detect nanosecond pulses or flashes of light distinct from pulse sars or other naturally occurring phenomenon -- pulsars. i hope today's hearing will enable us to hear how research in astrobiology continues to expand this fascinating frontier. the unknown and unhe can plodder areas of space spark human curiosity. americans and others around the world look up at the stars and wonder if we are alone or is there life on other planets? that concludes my opening
statement and the ranking member, gentle women from texas, miss johnson, is recognized for hers. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman and good morning. in the interests of saving time i will forgo making an opening statement and instead i will simply welcome dr. shore stack and dr. werthimer on this mornings on search for life and intelligent life in outer space. you both are distinguished researchers and i know you have thoughtful testimony to present and this afternoon we'll determine whether we'll have researchers to continue this. so thank you, and i yield back. >> thank you, miss johnson. would i like to introduce our witnesses at this point. our first witness, dr. seth show stack, shows stack. he held this poppings. dr. show stack,.
he was written 400 magazines, technology astrology, film and television. he contributed and edited to contribute dozen scientific and popular astronomy books. he authored four books including sharing the universe, perspectives on extraterrestrial life and confessions of an alien hunter, a scientists search for extraterrestrial intelligence. you can hear him each week as hose of one hour long radio program on astrobiology entitled, big picture science. dr. shostak, received bachelor from princeton an phd in astro physics from the california institute of technology. our second witness, dr. dan wert i'mer, worked at space sciences laboratory at uc berkeley since 1983. he is currently director of several of the lab's centers including the research center and center for astronomy, signal processing and electronics research.
additionally mr. werthimer serves as chief scientist for the lan's seti at home program and associate director of the berkeley wireless research center. mr. werthimer coauthored seti 2020. editor of bio astronomy, molecules, microbes and extraterrestrial life. astronomical and biochemical origins in the search for life in the universe. his research has been featured in many broadcast news stories such as on abc, cbs, and many major newspapers and magazines. his work reach ad younger audience through scholastic weekly, a science magazine for kids. mr. werthimer received bachelors and master's degrees in physics and astronomy from san francisco state university. i will start with dr. shostak and go to mr. wert i'mer. -- weird i'mer. >> thank you, congressman smith for opportunity to be here. i will give you a big picture
thoughts and intelligent life and life that can uphold side of conversation as opposed microbial life. this is obviously subject of great interest to many people. when you back up and see about the discovery after new planet, something, water on mars, you're looking one of three horses in a race to be the first to find some extraterrestrial biology. the first horse is simply to find it nearby and that's where the big money is. rovers on mars, the moons of outer solar systems, they're at least half a dozen other words that might have life in our solar civil. the chances of finding it i think are good and if that happens, it will happen in the next 20 years, depending on the financing. the second horse in that race is to build very large instruments that can sniff, if you will, the atmospheres of planets around other stars and maybe find oxygen in the atmosphere or methane, which as you know is produced by cows and pigs and things like that but biology in any case and so you could find
pigs in space i suppose. that is again, a project, depending on funding that could yield results in the next two decade. the third horse in that race is seti, search for extraterrestrial intelligence. that idea, if you have seen the movie "contact," you know what the idea is, eavesdrop on signals deliberately or accidentally leaked off of somebody else's world. that makes sense because in fact, even we, only 100 years after tesla and marconi and invention shun of practical radio we already have technology that would allow to us send bits of information across light years of distance to punitive extraterrestrials. let me tell you why i think they're out there by the way. that is, you know, it is unproven whether there is any life. that is the situation today. you heard me say twice now i think that situation is going to change within everyone's lifetime in this room. okay, the reason is, the universe is very full of
habitats for life. congressman smith mentioned number of stars in our galaxy. with respect that number is rather larger. something like 2 to 400 billion stars but we now know that 70% of them have planets. recent results from nasa's kepler telescope in astoundingly successful instrument, suggest that one in five stars may have planets that are cousins of the earth. what that means is, in our own galaxy there are tens of billions of other planets that are the kind you might want to build condos on and live, all right? tens of billions. if that isn't adequate for your requirements, let me point out there are 150 billion other galaxy west see with our telescopes, each with similar compliment of earth-like worlds. what that means the numbers are so astounding if this is the only planet which not only life but intelligent life has arisen, then we are extraordinarily exceptional, like find buying trillions of lottery tickets and
none is winner that. would be very unusual. everybody likes to think they're special and i'm sure you all are, maybe we're not that special. history of astronomy every time we thought we were special we know we were wrong. what has been done so far, various radios, i won't detail the technology. we looked at parts, much of the sky at fairly low sensitivity over limited range of radio wave lengths, radio sections of the band. we have looked in particular directions at a few thousand star systems. in other words we just begun the search. the fact we haven't found anything means nothing. like looking for fauna in africa and giving up you only examined one city block. the reason the search is cramp and constricted, honest is the own no funding for this. totally private funding. the number of people that do seti for a living is fewer than number of people in any row in the audience behind me.
that is the world total for this endeavor. when are we going to find them? you heard me suggest that may happen rather quickly. let me point out two other things. one, this is very interesting to the public. because they have seen extraterrestrials on television and in the movies all their lives. okay. that also gives it a certain giggle factor. very easy to make fun of this. on the other hand it would have been easy to make fund of ferdinand magellan's idea to sail around the earth or captain cook to map the south pacific. that is exploration. that is what this is. the consequences are always, shall we say salubrious. to find there is life out there, intelligent life would cali great our position in the universe. it would as congressman smith said, probably the greatest discovery mankind can ever make. what is important this is first generation with both the knowledge and technology to do that. >> thank you, doctor shows stack have shostak.
mr. werthimer. >> thank you for the opportunity to talk about are we alone. is anybody out there. can you guys show the slides? i want to walk you through some of the seti experiments we and other people are doing. so as seth mentioned, this nasa kepler mission, from that we have learned there are a trillion planets in our milky way galaxy. that is more plan it's than there are stars, lots of places for life. we learned a lot of these planets are what we called goldilocks distance, not too hot, not too cold, rocky planets with liquid water. there could be a lot of life out there. how are we getting in touch? one of the ideas, earth links have been sending off radio, television signals for last 57 years. early television shows, i love lucy, ed sullivan. the nearby stars have seen "the simpsons.." turn that around if we're broadcasting maybe some are sending signals in our
direction, leaking signals way we unintentionally send off signals or maybe a deliberate signals. they could be sending laser signals. there are a number of projects looking for laser signals. this is project harvard university, a clever project. this is project at lick observatory. there is a project in hawaii at the telescope looking for laser signals. people are also looking for radio signals. our group use the world's largest radio antenna. we call it radio telescope. this is the telescope in puerto rico. it is a thousand feet in diameter. holds 10 billion bowls of corn flakes. we haven't actually tried that. it is operated by the national science foundation and most astronomers would be lucky to use this telescope, a day or two a year of the we figured out a way to use the telescope at the same time that other scientists are using it, so we can collect data year-round all day. we're collecting data as we talk to you. now that is actually a problem. even though we get the world's
largest tell cope all year-round, it creates enormous amount of data. to analyze the data we ask volunteers for help. if you, you can help us running a program on your home computer, your laptop or desktop computer. install a program called, seti at home. a screen saver program of the way we take the data from the world's largest telescope and we break it up into little pieces. everybody get as piece of the sky to analyze. you install this program. it pops up when you go out for cup of coffee and computer goes through the data looking through all the different frequencies and signal types. this is what it looks like when it is running on your computer at home. it take as few days to analyze data, looking for interesting signals. when it find interesting signals it send them back to berkeley. you get a new chunk of data, different part of the sky to work on. if you are lucky one at that find that faint murmur from distant civilization you might fet the nobel prize. there is a catch.
millions of people downloaded seti home screen safer. split out into 200 countries. together volunteers formed one of the most powerful supercomputers on the planet and enabled the most sensitive search for extraterrestrial signals anybody has ever done. so we're very grateful to the volunteers. we made that more general, so that, you can participate in not just seti with your home computer but you can participate in lots of projects. there are climate prediction projects. there is gravity way project. protein folding. you can look for malaria drugs, hiv drugs and allocate how you want the cycles to be used on your home computer. one of the new products we're working on and we're asking universities and observatoriries around the world to look at a lot of different wave length bands, a lot of different frequencies. we're targeting very nearest stars and trying to cover all the different band that come through the earth's atmosphere.
we're looking radio frequencies. we're looking infrared frequencies or wave lengths and looking also optical frequencies looking for lazer signals. this will be extremely comprehensive search. we have eight different telescopes we're using an looking at all these different band but only targeting the nearby stars. another project we're launching this year is interplanetary eavesdropping. the idea of this project there may be signals going back and forth between two planets in a distant solar system. maybe eventually we'll have machines or people on mars and we'll have radio communication or laser communication between our two planets. put it the other way, distant civilization may have colonized a planet in their own solar system and there may be radio or laser signals going back and forth between those two planets. now with the kepler spacecraft we know exactly when two planets in distant solar system are lined up with earth so we can
schedule observations and target that and see if we can intercept those signals going back and forth between two different planets. we're using the green bank telescope in west virginia to do that experiment. we haven't found "e.t."'s so far. we found a planet made of solid diamond. map of black hole in center of galaxy. brain research which may eventually control prosthetic arms. we haven't found "e.t." so far. we had radio one hundred years. we're learning how to do it. like looking for a needle in a haystack. we're optimistic in the long run. the reason i'm optimistic in the long run, seti is limited by computer technology which is growing exponentially. it is limited by telescope technology. china is building a huge telescope bigger than arisbo. australians are working on huge till scope made of thousands of dishes combined to make a giant
telescope. i will stop there. i have a couple of poems i could read from the volunteers. i'm out of time. thank you very much. >> thank you very much, mr. werthimer. thank you for your testimony. you anticipated my questions a little bit. i would still like to go forward with them. let me address the first question to you all starting with dr. shostak. it is this, kind of a two-part question. what do you think, i can anticipate your answer a little bit on basis of your statement, but what do you think is the possibility of microbial life found in the universe or intelligent life being found in the universe? so the first question goes to the possibility. the second question would be what do you think is the likelihood of finding either microbial life or intelligent life in the universe, two different kind of questions? dr. shows stack. >> well the probability of life is hard to estimate, what we do know now, something we didn't know very recently, even 20
years ago, we did not know were there habitats that could support life? what astronomy has proven the last 500 years the entire universe is made out of the same stuff, right? most distant galaxies have same 92 elements on the wall in your 9th grade classroom, right if you've taken chemistry in school you don't have to take it again if you move to another galaxy. it is same everywhere. there are building blocks there. there will be plenty of planets with liquid water and atmosphere. the kind of salubrious condition in hyattville. the life could arise. we know life began on earth very, very quickly. only a sample of one. it is not entirely convincing. it does suggest that it wasn't difficult for life to get foothold on this planet or elsewhere. life is maybe not so hard to get started. that is sort of 9 general impression among scientists. what they believe is not so important. finding it is so important. second part of your question, what about intelligent life?
that is a lot harder, right? the earth had life for 3 1/2 billion, probably 4 billion years, almost since the beginning, right? this place has been carpeted with life. the whole time you required a microscope to see it, all microbial. only last 500 years cellular life. you know the whole story. that opens up a question i give you a million worlds with life what fraction of them will cook up something as clever as you all? the answer to that, we don't know the answer to that. there are suggestions it will happen given enough time because simply we're not only species that became clever in past 50 million years. if you have dogs and cats at home, they're cleverer than dinosaurs. intelligence pays off. >> thank you, dr. shostak. you made a point. 20 years ago we haven't detect ad feet tall planet outside of our soil lar system. now it is up to 2,000.
exponential growth in astrobiology research. mr. werthimer. >> i suspect the research is teaming with microbial life. it would be bizarre if we are alone. i don't know that for sure. intelligence will be rarer. there are a trillion planets i believe it will happen often. it happened several times on this planet and likely to arise elsewhere. >> you would put it at 100% then? >> 99. 99.999 stropping on out. >> okay, good. the next question, mr. werthimer, let me follow up with you. as far as assetty at home screen saver something for students to take advantage of as well as members. i tried to adapt that to my laptop in my office several years ago and was not able to. maybe we'll talk some more. maybe government needs to change its policy, i'm not sure which. let me ask you, what are the advantages and disadvantages of radio seti versus optical setty?
>> there are lots of pros and cons. lasers are good for point to point communication, lots of bits-per-second, lots of diet attch i think the best strategy is multiple strategy. we should look for all kind of different signals and not put all our money in one basket. hard to predict what civilizations is are doing. if you asked me one one years to look for i would have said smoke signals. we rye try to launch a new seti project every year. >> dr. werthimer any advantages to seti? >> i point they're different colors of same thing. in fact different colors. they're both electromagnetic communication. we use both in our telecommunications here on earth. i suspect aliens will as well. i get a email every week, you guys looking for radio, that is old school. extraterrestrials assuming they're out there will use
something much more sophisticate. that depend on physics. we shouldn't discount a technology because it has been around. we use the wheel every day. that is pretty old technology. i suspect we use the wheel for a long time. >> thank you for your answers to my questions. the ranking member, miss johnson is recognized for her questions. >> thank you very much, i'm trying very hard to ask something that sounds sensible. what is the status of the extraterrestrial intelligence search now? >> i think we're just getting in the game. we're learning how to do this and i think we would be lucky to find, even though i'm optimistic about life and intelligent life in the universe, and it is likely there a whole galactic internet out there, i think we would be lucky to find them now but i'm optimistic in the long run. >> congressman johnson, i might point out that contrary to popular impression, this
experiment isn't the same from day-to-day. people figure we're sitting around with ear phones listening to cosmic status every day, a rather tedious job if that is what it were but it is not. all the listening is done by computers. really important point much of this experiment depend on digital technology, computers, if you will. as you know there is something called moore's law, which says whatever you can buy today for a dollar you can buy twice as much for a dollar two years from now. there is this very rapid growth in the capabilities there so in fact the search is speeding up and actually speeding up exponentially. very heavily overused word, exponentially but in fact it applies. >> tell me this. i know that the improvement of technologies or, are important and yet some of the old technologies or old techniques are also still in play. how do you predict your advance
ment based on what you have available to you for research tools? >> i'll just say something. i'm sure dan has much to add to this but in terms of what we could do in the near future, the foreseeable future, what you really i think need to do, if you want to have a decent chance of success, mind you, this has to remain speculative. this is all like asking chris columbus two weeks out, hey, have you found any new continents lately? the answer would be there was only water around the ship today, and by the way yesterday, water around the ship and it will be fairly acquaos within the vicinity of the ship. he can't predict anything interesting nor can we. if you look euphemistically estimates what fraction of stars have something out there you might be able to pick up, sound like you have to look at a few million star systems to have
reasonable chance of success. we've not done that i can't. we've done less than 1% of that as of today, but, given predictable advancements in technology, to at a few million star systems is something that can be done within two dozen years given funding to do it. >> yes. [inaudible]. >> captured it well. >> now when we found the other life on other planets, what do you speculate we would find and what is of value, potential value? >> i think it is profound either way. this is not an expensive thing. order of million dollars a year. we're funded by the national science foundation, nasa, templeton foundation, some private donations. the reason i think it is profound either way, if we discover we are alone, we better take really good care of life on this planet. it is very precious.
the other thing is profound too. if we find we're part of a galactic community and get on the galactic internet and learn all their poetry, music, literature, science, we could learn a lot. >> i just add briefly, nobody knows what we'll learn. if we can decode the signal, sort of like being confronted with high row give fixes. you might figure them out. turns out the high row give exwere made easier and rosetta stone and whatever. we might not figure it out, if you cod, listen to data sent by societies far in advance of us. we're hearing them, not other way around. they're more advanced and maybe teach you stuff, no knows. imagine the incass find a barrel washed up on the shore from europe full of books. if they could figure out the books they would learn a lot of interesting stuff. i don't know that we will ever figure out the books but even if
we don't, the important point has been made. that is we have calibrated our place not in the physical universe. we've sort of done that but calibrated our place in the biological and more the intellectual universe. i think that is good for our souls to know how we fit in. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, miss johnson. the gentleman from ohio, mr. johnson is recognized for his question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. gentlemen, for both of you, how has the recent discovery of over 1700 planets by the kept lar space tell soap, how has that impacted seti research? >> if you asked astronomers 20 years ago, are there planets around other stars we think so but all that has changed. that changed with the nasa kepler mission. if you extrapolate a planets, a few thousand planets they discovered, if you extrapolate
on that trillion planets in the mill which way galaxy, those are a trillion more planets than there are stars. so a lot of places for life. >> okay. >> i think it also affected sperms, in a sense in the past we would point telescopes in the direction of stars, certain kinds of stars. certain masses of stars. . . >> well, dr. shostak, would you
please provide some examples of the technical contributions that seti has made to other fields? how has seti research benefited other areas of science? >> well, i think that its benefit is less so in terms of the discovery. obviously, we haven't found e.t.. if we had, we wouldn't be having this hearing, okay? but, and to my surprise, seti has not turned up any astrophysical phenomena that were astonishing as well. and that ease surprising. normal lily, every time you build an instrument, it examines a different parameter in the space base of the universe. you find something new. so is that's instructive, that it hasn't. the kind of technology that's been developed is certainly of interest in other fields in astrongny, but i think the real value of seti is what it does in terms of the other efforts being made to find life in space. nasa has a big effort.
you know, the rovers on mars. yes, they're there to find the hydrology, the history of water on mars, but why are you interested? you're interested because you want to know were there ever martians? microbial, most likely. are there still martians? that's what interests people the most, okay in and seti was always, if you will, a punchline to this story that nasa had about finding, you know, traces of water on mars or burrowing through the ice on some of these moons of the outer solar system where there may be vast quantities of liquid water. seti was, okay, we may find life, but what about intelligent life? that would be even more interesting, and that's what's missing, in fact, from the nas a saw program today. >> okay. you made a comment that kind of caught my attention. let me make sure i got it right. you said that if we hear from intelligent life out there somewhere, that they must be
more advanced than us because we're hearing from them and not the other way around. how can you draw that conclusion? i mean, maybe they've been hearing from us for a long time and just don't like what we have to say? [laughter] >> i think it's entirely possible that we are on their, in their catalog. they've seen oxygen in our atmosphere, and they know we're out here. i think life in the universe is going to be, going to be lots of different stages. some of it's going to be microbial, some it'll be trees, more sophisticated. the earth is five billion years old, some stars are ten billion years old, so to there could be a lot of advanced civilizations as well. >> uh-huh, okay. >> just point out, you're not going to hear from any less advanced societies, they're not building radio transmitters. >> well, yeah. i'd say at least equal to, perhaps more advanced, but, you know, maybe they've got their caller id block turned on. [laughter] >> i wouldn't speculate on alien
technology and whether they'd like our television or not. [laughter] i don't know about the chances of that. but at least the level of 100 or 1,000 or even 10,000 years of our level -- >> yeah. one final, quick question for both of you. how would you define successful seti research? i mean, i know that's kind of a nebulous question, but -- >> finding the signal. >> how would you define successful? >> if you found a signal, and that could be corroborated. if you just find it once and it's not crab rated -- corroborated, it's not science. it's a narrow band signal, it's not made by nature, it's made by a transmitter, that's success. >> okay. >> i think the most likely scenario is finding some sort of artifact of their technology, a radar signal or a navigational beacon or something that won't contain a lot of information, but we'll know we're not alone. >> okay. thank you, mr. chairman, i yield
back. >> thank you, mr. johnson. the gentlewoman from oregon, and if you would just yield to me for ten seconds. >> certainly. >> it was mentioned if there were other intelligence locations they would likely be more advanced than we are. we're a relatively junior galaxy, they might be two, i don't know, two billion years older than we are, and it's just fascinating to think what form of life might be existent in a universe or parallel universe or another galaxy where they've had a two billion year head start. we might not even recognize the beings we might not be able to communicate with 'em. none of this will be charged or counted against the gentlewoman's five minutes for questioning. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, so much, doctors, for being here. i noticed in your testimony, mr. werthimer, you said there are 24 seti scientists on the
planet, and i can't think of a time in this committee where we've had a larger percentage of experts on our panel. [laughter] thank you so much for being here. and, doctor, i really am intrigued by your section in your testimony on the public's interest and how the idea of life in space is an idea that everyone grasps and is especially a ideal hook for interesting young people in science. i think that's evidenced by the full committee room today. one of the statements that resonated with me is it would be a cramped mind, indeed, that didn't wonder who might be out there. i really appreciate that. you said also in your testimony extraterrestrials are the unknown tribe over the hill, potential competitors or mates, but in any case, someone we would like to know more about. and i recollect a similar hearing in this committee, i believe it was last year when one of my colleagues -- and i'm fairly certain it was representative chris smith who's no longer on the committee -- said the interesting question is
what do we do when we find the life on another planet? so can you talk, both of you, about what's the plan? do we announce it to the world? do we do research more to determine if these are friendly or collaborative? what do we do when we make the discovery, assuming that it's going to happen? dr. shost remarks k, would you like to begin? >> yes. that's a question of great interest to the public and of great importance as well. to begin with, there's no danger, right? you tune in your favorite deejay here in d.c. on the car radio, and there's no danger that that deejay's going to jump into the car next to you and give you a hard time because they don't know that you've picked them up. if we pick up a signal, they don't know that. all right? there is the question of, well, should we reply? i'll get to that in just a second. but what happens then? suppose we do pick up the signal? it would be announced. the public has the idea that you all have a secret plan, that the
government has a secret plan for what to do if we pick up a signal. as far as i can tell, there is no plan. okay? [laughter] and we have had false alarms, and i've waited for my congressman to call me up and say, hey, you guys are pick iing up -- picking up a signal, what about that? and nobody in the government shows the slightest bit of interest. "the new york times" will calm, right? but the government is not so interested. so what would happen is it would immediately be known that we had found the signal, and it would be known even before it had been corroborated. so there are going to be false alarms, be prepared for that. you get somebody in another ab serve story to -- observatory to also observe it. there are too many things that could go wrong. >> mr. werthimer, do you have anything to add to that? >> i think before you make a big announcement, you want to make sure it's real. you ask a different telescope, different people, different software to verify it, then you
can triangulate it, make sure it's not a graduate student playing a pac on you. and understand -- prank on you. and understand you have some confidence, it could be some new astrophysical phenomena. so i think then you, at the point where you're pretty confident you found something, you make all the information public, the coordinates in the sky, the frequency, anything you know about the signal, and i think there'll be a lot of debate about whether this is a new natural phenomena or really evidence of another civilization. a lot of people will be working on that problem. >> and could you also address of the 24, you say the 24 seti scientists on the planet, to what extent are other nations involved? how collaborative are we? we have a lot of discussions in this committee about international collaboration especially in space. so can you talk about where we are as a nation compared with the other countries in the world? >> yeah. seti is quite fragile. as you said, there are 24 people doing it. about two-thirds of them are in
the u.s.. a lot of the original ideas have come out of the u.s. but we are working with other scientists in other countries, and because it's so fragile, we're trying to train new people and get new ideas and get other groups because it's only at a small number of institutions right now. the funding is fragile too. it's fluctuating around. the two biggest telescopes on the planet are currently funded by the national science foundation, the green bank telescope in this west virginia, the -- [inaudible] telescope. those are in funding jeopardy. it looks like one of those observatories is probably going to have to be shut down, the other is just hanging by a thread. the chinese are building a bigger telescope, there's a new one going to be built in south africa and australia. so the u.s. may not continue to lead this work. but it is now. >> i would find that disappointing, if that happened. and i'm out of time. i yield back the balance of my time. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, ms. bone my chi. the gentleman from new york, mr. collins, is recognized for
his question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think i might ask the question everyone in this room wants to ask. have you watched ancient aliens, and what's your comment about that series? we'll start with you, dr. shostak. >> yes, i think i've been on it, actually. [laughter] more than once. the public is fascinate with the the idea that we may be being visited now or may have been visited in the past, the so-called ufo phenomenon. i personally don't share the conviction. i don't think that that would be something that, you know, all the governments of the world had managed to obfuscate, to keep secret. i don't believe that. but the idea that maybe we were visited during the time of the ancient egyptians and so forth, keep in mind that in the four and a half billion year history of the earth, the time of the ancient egyptians was yesterday, right? so, again, why were they there then? what was it that brought them to earth? i have no idea, and i don't find very good evidence.
i don't think -- i think the pyramids, for example, were probably built by egyptians. i know that that's a radical idea for some people. [laughter] but they were very clever, and they could certainly do that. so i don't think that there's any good evidence that convinces me that we were visited in historic times. >> how about you, many werthimer? >> ufos have nothing to do with extraterrestrials, so there's no evidence that any of these sightings -- i think some of these sightings are real phenomena, we get a lot of calls when the space station goes over, although some people embellish, and they say it has windows and things. and some of it is people's a imagination, and we know that because it ties very closely to popular culture general jules vern started writing about flying saucers, when people watch movies, we get a lot of reports to what's tied to in the movies. and some it is deliberate hoaxes
for people making money. >> thank you. i think that was my only question, mr. chairman. i yield back. [laughter] >> thank you, mr. collins. the gentlewoman from maryland, ms. edwards, is recognized for her questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i feel like i should have been here earlier, so i apologize. i've enjoyed the discussion thus far and reading the testimony. you know, my favorite movie is "contact," all right? every year it comes out since 1997, i watch it, i dream, i think, well, you know, who knows? what's intriguing about this conversation is the idea that -- and it is a little bit of hubris, right? -- that somehow we're waiting to find them as opposed to them finding us. and maybe that's just the nature of home homo sapiens, that's kif what we do. but i'm a little bit curious, dr. werthimer, in your prepared statement, you discuss the seti
project which will use six telescopes to search nearby stars and stars most likely to host a planet system similar to the sun's. and so the project as you describe it would examine a large portion of the electromagnetic spectrum spanning from low frequencies through optical light to detect possible signals from advanced civilization. how are the target stars that you talked about identified, and how are you going to coordinate the use of the six telescopes? >> we are not trying to to use the telescopes all at the same time. that's actually hard to do, so we just use the telescope, and other groups are -- we're working with a lot of groups at universities and observatories. but typically, we'll use one telescope and then a month later use another telescope and so on. the stars that we're targeting, instead of targeting stars that we know that have planets, it looks like all stars have planets, so we're just going to target the nearest stars. so that's our plan, is just target the nearby stars.
>> all right. and you talked also about the, you know, this notion that there are just sort of 24 of you folks, you know, most interested robustly, academically, you know, studying this. but respect there, like, a whole -- aren't there, like, a whole network of people out in communities who kind of feed or fuel some of the research that you're doing? >> seth, do you want to take that one? [laughter] >> dan refers to me because i don't think we know the answer to that question. in order to do this, it would be like saying, you know, sure, there are a few thousand people looking for the -- [inaudible] but what about the communities that are feeding that? if you don't have the instrument, it's very hard to do the experiment. and the number of instruments involved here is very small. >> so the rest of us are really just, you know, dreaming and pretending that that's what we're -- >> well -- >> that's all right. you don't have to answer that. i was not serious at all. [laughter] then i want to talk about security issues in the time we
have left. i understand early on there was an assessment of the robustness of the seti home software to withstand malicious takes and penetrations. and in the earlier study you found that there had been two noteworthy attacks, and the web server was compromised. you also found later that exploiting a design flaw in your client server protocol that hackers had actually stolen thousands of user e-mail addresses. can you give us an idea of the current state of security? >> um, yeah. i think in general downloading software and installing on your computer, you should be care. it actually -- careful. it actually turns out that seti's home is one of the safest things you can ip stall on the computer, and the reason is because millions of people are using it and testing it out. and so, so and also it's been running for a really long time, and it's open source software. the software is -- anybody can read the software and help us, a lot of the volunteers help us
write the software, and we're now reporting it to cell phones which will allow each more people to participate in the search. >> i guess some of the question is just especially whenever you deal with open source, the challenge of the systems vulnerability. >> yeah. i actually think open source software is actually a little safer because so many eyeballs can look at it. >> okay. i'm done. i think i'll just go back to watching my movies. [laughter] >> thank you, ms. edwards. the gentleman from florida, mr. posey, is recognized for his questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for inviting these distinguished witnesses for this fascinating testimony. very enjoyable. i go to the seti facebook page every day to get a little extra factoid. i learn something every day. i hadn't, i hadn't been there a
single day to find that i already knew your message of the day. very, very educational, very inspiring, obviously, very interesting and graphics always good too, and i want to thank you for that. on your disclosure i was really impressed with the number of agreements and grants. i'm just really glad to know that that is saw so engaged with what you're doing there and still allow y'all to have a pretty free hand to do what you do better than, i think, anybody else is doing it, obviously. and so thank you for that. obviously, there's some curiosity about your thoughts about such things as project blue book. what do you think? >> first off, i want to thank you for noting. all those grants, by the way, are for the astrobiology search being conducted. there's actually no federal money going to the search for intelligent life, but we do, the
majority of our scientists are doing astrobiology, so life on mars, the outer solar system. >> and we're glad you are. >> yes. well, so are we, i can assure you. and that's, i think, a very productive line of research as well. in terms of project blue book and the whole ufo phenomenon, as i say, i am personally quite skeptical. one-third of americans believe that a we are being visited. that's the result of polls that have been taken since the 1960s. that number doesn't change. and by the way, if you think this is an especially american opinion, that's wrong. one-third of europeans, australians, japanese and so forth believe we are being visited. i do not. i honestly do not. i think if we were being visited, it would not be controversial. it's been, what, 60-some years since roswell, for example. if you would ask the residents of massachusetts 60 years after columbus, do you think you're being visited by spaniards? that would not be controversial. i think if they were really
here, everyone would know that. >> okay, very good. stephen hawking, i believe, made some comments about contact with extraterrestrials or other life. your thoughts about his comments. >> yeah. so this is a controversial topic about whether we should transmitt messages. that's called active seti or met imessages to extra dress dress -- extra extraterrestrial intelligence. the first experiments we should do is just listening, trying to receive signals and see what's out there. we think that advanced civilizations are going to be peaceful if you watch "star trek," but we don't know that, and that may be naive. so my feeling is we should be just listening for now and maybe in a thousand or 10,000 years if we don't hear anything, we should think about transmitting signals, but that's a question for all humanity. it shouldn't be up to just a few
scientists, and so that's a big decision about who should speak for earth. so right now i think we should be listening. and that's, i believe, that's what hawking would say as well. >> i'm going to disagree a little bit with my colleague here, dan. i think that there's very little danger in transmitting, and if there is, we're already doing it. yes, we're not deliberately targeting the stars in general, although we have done that in the past. nasa sent a beatles song in 2008, i believe it was, to the north star, and it'll take 450 years to get there, and they may or may not like the beatles. they used a fairly powerful transmitter, but the most powerful transmitters are coming off the airports, right, for their navigation. these signals are on their way into space. they've already reached several thousand star systems. any society that has the technical competence to threaten you across dozens, hundreds, thousands of light years of space, any society at that level can pick up these signals, so if
you're really going to worry about this, you better shut down all the radars at the airports, and personally, i don't think that would be a very good idea. [laughter] >> okay. and briefly, still related, your thoughts on thorium. >> sorry, i'm not familiar with the topic. are you talking about nuclear reactors? >> yeah. >> i'm really not an expert, i'm sorry. >> only this, if you're talking about powering spacecraft this way, you know, if you send spacecraft through some of the more interesting parts of our solar system, jupiter, saturn, when you get to saturn, the amount of sunlight has dropped by a hundred. so you can't use solar cells. you have to power the craft some way. i wouldn't worry too much about radioactivity in space, of course, because space has plenty of radioactivity. that's the nature of the cosmos. but if you're worried about the fact that these launches could go awry and that you would land
these things on earth, yes, that's a danger. but, of course, people are aware of that danger, and they try and mitigate it. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank both the witnesses. >> thank you, mr. posey. the gentleman from arizona, mr. schweikert, is recognized for his question. >> thank you, mr. chairman. to our witnesses, let's see, what have we learned so far? we've learned there's a chance that aliens don't like the beatles, which i have trouble imagining, and they don't like our television programming, and there was a couple of other things -- oh, yeah, and account account -- "contact" is the best movie, right? somehow i thought that'd be funnier. [laughter] a couple of mechanical questions, i just want to get my head around some of the current scientific understanding. let's walk through a scenario, and you tell me if it's plausible or if this is current thought. asteroid hits the world, you know, hits our earth, and rock is thrown out into, you know,
the stellars. it carries dna. does that dna survive? doctor? >> yes. this idea known as -- [inaudible] and i'm sure you're aware of it, the idea that one world could infect another world has been looked at. people have actually simulated the environment of space and put some of our earthly bacteria into a rock and put it as it were in space to see how long they could survive. you know, would the dna still be viable when it got someplace interesting? the results as i understand them suggests that, yes, if you're talking about, you know, communicable disease within the solar system, could a rock from mars have seeded the earth, that is possible. there's no evidence that that occurred, but that is possible. the life would survive or would remain viable over that kind of time scales to send rocks in the solar system from one world to another. but if you're talking about seeding words in other solar systems at the distances of the
stars, the problem is space is a harsh environment even for a rock because there's a lot of radiation, and it's incredibly dry. anything that's in there is going to be suffering desiccation for maybe hundreds of thousands, millions of years, really, before it gets there. and the general consensus that i've heard is that it won't be viable when it does. >> i think that's the current sort of thought right now. >> yeah. so as you know, asteroids have hit the earth many times, and so it'll be a really interesting question if life is found in our own solar system like, for instance, euro pa which is a moon going around earth u there could be something swimming around there. by the way, when i talk to elementary schools and ask them how are we going to get through the ice and see if there's something swimming, the boys all say we should use machine guns and bombs, and the girls say we should melt our way through using mirrors. >> once again proving there is something in our dna that's
different. [laughter] >> so if we do find life in our solar system, the really exciting thing to figure out is does it use the same dna, the same amino acids, the same nuke lo tides, is it identical chemistry? that would mean that rocks are going back and forth between these moons and planets and our own solar system, and it really happened in one place and was carried back and forth. as seth was talking about. that's not very interesting. what would be much more interesting would be discovering life that's different with a different chemistry. because if we do find something like that on europa or another moon or mars, that means that the universe is teeming with life. if we can find it in two different kinds of life in our own solar system, that means there's a lot of life out there. >> it makes the imagination wonder. earlier the chairman and -- i
mean this with all the love in the world -- was trying to say give me percentage of life out there in existence. i remember doing this sort of as a sort of thought process with one of my professors many years ago. and i guess one of the mechanisms was from the beginning until today earth has had 100 billion species or something -- and how many can do higher math. and sort of give you sort of -- and we would use that as sort of the benchmark to try to do those calculations. and i guess our understanding was it's unknowable. you know? what's out there, what isn't out there. i mean, you know, we see the world of large numbers, large planets, but, you know, these huge numbers. >> on earth intelligence has written several times independently, there are many intelligent creatures, although
none as intelligent as us. we're not sure. >> we always use the math. >> yeah. you can be successful in life if you're strong or fast or -- but you can also be successful in some evolutionary environments by being smart. and so i think there are going to be places in the universe where it's advantageous to be smart. >> but the, i guess, and for doctor, the fun in this one is how would you ever calculate it? how would you ever sort of build your baseline to build from? and when you move from sort of hope, which is a powerful thing, to being able to put it into a calculator -- >> yes. >> -- there is often quite a leap there. >> i think it's very difficult to estimate because we just have this one example on earth. and so i think the only way we're going to find out is to do this search. >> it's very akin, i think, to sitting around in the bars of europe in 1700 trying to estimate the probability that any expedition sent into the deep south, any sailing expedition will find the
hypothesized southern continent there. >> yeah. >> what are the probability? can you give me that to three figures before i fund you? you can't. you have to do the experiment. >> so, therefore, it becomes a leap of faith. >> it's a reasonable -- leap of faith, it's a reasonable hypothesis that there's life to be found out there, even intelligence life to be found out there. we can sit around and have a lot of drinks and talk about it, but in the end, if you don't do the experiment, you'll continue to have the drinks. [laughter] >> seeing some of our questions, there may have been a lot of drinks going on. [laughter] thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. schweikert. thank you both for your testimony which was clearly appreciated by both members of congress as well as the audience. and i also want to thank the herndon high school students for being here today. you had a wonderful opportunity today to hear about a fascinating subject, and i hope this will spur you on to study not only astrobiology, but other scientific subjects as well. and in case someone has an
interest or wants to follow up on this subject, you might go to our committee's web site which is science.house.gov, and we'll have some information about this hearing on that web site as well as other things that might be of interest to you all. so thanks again for a wonderful hearing today, and we stand adjourned. [inaudible conversations] >> here is what's ahead. next, a congressional hearing looks at student athletes. and later, the supreme court oral argument in the case of
nlrb v. canning dealing with the constitutionality of some of president obama's recess appointments. >> here's a look at some of our prime time programming. on c-span at eight, a look back at the congressional investigations into the general motors recalls. on c-span2 at eight, more booktv. our focus will be on the past and future of money. and on c-span3, american history. tonight's theme is the civil war battle of fort stevens. >> here are some of the highlights for this weekend. friday on c-span in prime time we'll visit important sites in the history of the civil l rights movement. saturday night at eight, highlights from this year's new york ideas forum including cancer biologist andrew his el, and on sunday, q&a at 8 p.m.
eastern. friday night at eight on c-span2, in depth with reza aslan. saturday at 10, retired neurosurgeon and columnist, ben carson. and sunday night lawrence goldstone on the competition between the wright brothers and ben curtis to be the predominant men in manned flight. mesh history -- american history on friday, a look at slavery. saturday night at eight, the 200th anniversary of the burning of washington. and sunday night at 8 p.m., former white house chiefs of staff discuss how presidents make decisions. find our television schedule one week in advance at c-span.org, and let us know what you think about the programs you're watching. call us at 202-626-3400 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. join the c-span conversation; like us on facebook, follow us on twitter. >> the senate commerce committee held a hearing recently
examining college sports programs, academics and the potential exploitation of athletes. some of the areas covered include athletic scholarships, campus sexual assaults, health and safety issues and the idea of compensating student athletes. witnesses include ncaa president mark emmert who talked about some of his proposed changes. this is two hours, 45 minutes. [inaudible conversations] >> this hearing will come to order. and i want to thank all of you very much for coming here. you're a bit squeezed in there.
but water is on the house, so -- [laughter] be comfortable and be glad. college sports has an absolutely extraordinary position in the culture of our country not only have college sports inspired incredible fan passion all across the country, but they have provided a very importants way for young men and women to, as is written, both do athletics as an avocation and get an education. we're going to sort of talk about that today. many young people, however, athletics has provided an avenue to college they would otherwise not have existed, and it's important to understand that. college athletes and athleticsoe are rooted in the notion of amateurism. and the history of that is very
interesting and important goings back to the founding of the ncaa, 1906, and all the rest of it. and going back, actually torque the greeks' -- going back to the greeks' concept of amateurism.ng playing sports is supposed to be avenue avocation. for love of c the game, not lovm of money, that is the ideal. but many people believe this notion of college sports is add being undermined by the power and the influence of money. i remember a meeting i had in mt officeio with the three top executives of espn. meeting i had in my office with the three top executives of espn. and it was one of those meetings in which i didn't say a word, because they just went around in circles. each talking about what a great business model they had, how they had control and the power that no other broadcast system, whatever, have.
how thrilled they were with it. and how they were going to make it even stronger. there's a growing perception that college athletics, particularly division i football and basketball are notwoke indications at all. critics of big-time athletics say the goal is not to provide young people with a college education, but to produce a winning program that reached financial readers for the athletic departments and their schools. it is not, however, about the students. they're part of what generates the money. it's about capturing the billions of dollars of television and marketing revenues that college sports do generate. and will generate even